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How the call to prayer is uniting Israel's Arabs, ultra-Orthodox

Ultra-Orthodox Knesset members have joined forces with Joint List Knesset members in objecting to the bill preventing the muezzin call to prayer.
Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman speaks during a briefing to members of the media on the medical condition of former Israeli President Shimon Peres a day after he suffered a stroke, at a hospital near Tel Aviv, Israel September 14, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner - RTSNPU9
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On Nov. 15, before the so-called Muezzin Law, which states that the noise level of the muezzins’ loudspeakers needs to be limited, was presented at a preliminary reading in the Knesset, the chairman of the ultra-Orthodox Yahadut HaTorah Party, Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman, blocked the advancement of the controversial bill. The appeal he submitted regarding the decision of the ministerial committee on legislation, which authorized the bill, was based on the fear that the bill would silence not only the muezzins but also the Sabbath sirens that sound off in ultra-Orthodox population centers every Friday evening to announce the beginning of the Sabbath.

The minister’s appeal received warm responses from the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties. The chairman of the party, Knesset member Ayman Odeh, said in response, “I thank Minister Litzman for submitting the appeal and blocking the reading of the bill, and I truly believe that today a significant step was taken in the cooperation of the disadvantaged in our society.” Joint List Knesset member Ahmed Tibi also praised the ultra-Orthodox and said that in the past, when Yesh Atid Chair Yair Lapid raised the draft law for enlisting the ultra-Orthodox, there were those who pressured Tibi to vote for it. But the ultra-Orthodox explained to him that this is their most sensitive issue, and thus he decided to abstain. Now, he says, the ultra-Orthodox are returning the favor.

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